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In the age of Trump, will the media wring its hands — or assert the kind of oversight the public appears to want?

Donald Trump
REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg: "Mr. Trump remains a master media manipulator who used his first news briefing since July to expertly delegitimize the news media."

Considering our woeful record in assessing the likely outcome of the November election, no one in American media should make predictions. But I strongly suspect the tenor of President-elect Trump’s first press conference Wednesday is going to be amplified and aggravated — constantly — throughout his term in office. It’s the way he does business, and, to date, the way the press has done business.

Digesting the spectacle, New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg wrote :

There were two big lessons in the Wednesday morning melee.

1. Mr. Trump remains a master media manipulator who used his first news briefing since July to expertly delegitimize the news media and make it the story rather than the chaotic swirl of ethical questions that engulf his transition.
2. The news media remains an unwitting accomplice in its own diminishment as it fails to get a handle on how to cover this new and wholly unprecedented president.

These are not novel insights. But it remains interesting how regularly we’re hearing this kind of thing from the country’s acknowledged journalistic leaders. Trump the manipulator, delegitimizing the press and the press failing to adjust to a new reality. Or, as one observer put it, the press is continuing to “apply balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon” to the extent that it “distorts reality.”

Missing from Rutenberg’s column and so many like it was a specific prescription of what to do. While he goes on to trill with the traditional news chorus indicting BuzzFeed for publishing the “extended version” of the U.S. intelligence briefing on Mr. Trump and his Russian activities, what he does in sum, is argue for yet more of the “balanced treatment” approach.

Whether you believe BuzzFeed — once a silly listicle-spewing engine now given grudging credibility among traditional reporters — was right or wrong in publishing the unverified report in its full salaciousness no doubt depends on what you think of Trump. (Rutenberg lauds BuzzFeed’s work on the genesis of some of the past year’s “fake news” epidemic.) But it’s hard to see how the press adjusts itself and re-gathers its bearings over the near term if it chooses to deny the right of an informed citizenry to know what the chattering classes of D.C. and New York have known and been talking about for months.

For the record, BuzzFeed presented the 35-page document with the clear disclaimer that information within was unverified. But the more important fact is that it published the thing. (Here’s a fiery takedown of the decision from Quillete.)

Such a thing simply isn’t done! Or at least hasn’t been until now, in this starkly unbalanced, distorting moment. Comparisons of BuzzFeed to the now-defunct Gawker are being tossed around in the context of unjournalistic recklessness and shameless “clickbaiting.”

Such horror! 

While the bonafides of the so-called dossier got something of a boost yesterday from a BBC story suggesting there at least four sources describing blackmail-quality material in Russian hands for possible use against Trump, for journalists of the traditional mindset, the line in the sand is “unverified.” Beyond that nothing matters.

The counter argument, which I think deserves more serious consideration than it is getting, is that having plainly asserted the material’s unverified nature, the credibility placed in it by U.S. intelligence agencies who briefed both the President, the President-elect and Senate leaders means the general public has a right to know what “the elites” are talking about.

The DC/media crowd had been aware of this for eight months. If, as you can see in this timeline, influential people were making strategic calculations based on its existence, who is the press protecting from what and why? Former acting CIA Director Mike Morrell had a set of interesting comments on the matter to Christiane Amanpour.

If the crossing of the line — where news publications print unverified opposition research on powerful public figures — is discomfiting to you, well, it should be. This is new ethical territory. Territory most polite people would prefer not to go into. But territory everyone in the press is reacting to whether they like it or not. Moreover, it is territory the press is being forced into, given the distortion of reality resulting from the head-on collision of “balanced” journalism and the “unbalanced phenomenon,” which in this case is an incoming President of the United States. Trump is, after all, someone who has steadfastly refused to disclose anything remotely like the normal financial information that could offer reassurance he is immune to foreign blackmail. 

We may all wish we still lived in an era of two more-or-less respectful warring parties, where the press could play the comfortable, familiar role of bemused arbiter. But those days are gone, or certainly aren’t the ones we’re living today.

Another storyline in the roiling freak show that is the press in the Age of Trump is the offer by Penthouse magazine of $1 million for anyone who delivers video of the dossier’s shall we say, “golden moment.” What does “the press” do if such a video ever appears?

Beyond that, and something I think far more plausible, is what happens if some wealthy liberal tycoon, a George Soros or Tom Steyer, lets word get out that there’s a $5 million (or $10 or $20 million) bounty on Trump’s tax returns? Drop them in a stall in an airport bathroom, no questions asked. What are the ethics of running with that?

Our incoming President is a kind of ultimate disrupter. The press can accept that and adapt in order to assert the kind of oversight the public appears to want, or it can continue to wring hands over its relevance.

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Comments (31)

The elephant in the room.

What you are omitting is the role of the party that holds the majority in both houses. This party of course could have prevented Trump’s election, and now could largely hold the Trump administration to norms, standards and laws of democratic governance, by exercising its confirmation, investigative and legislative powers so as to discharge its constitutional duty to check and balance. Instead all evidence is complete abdication of duty to country in the name of less, shall we say, high-minded motivations.

When the structural accountability mechanisms of a self-governed society evaporate as power consolidates and prepares to exercise itself, there is an ad hoc scramble for substitute means to exercise some countervailing influence. Releasing serious but unverified information is a small sin in this time of chaos, and we can only hope that there will be other such sins of civic society’s improvisation.

Chief disrupter

Never having been a journalist, I can't speak very specifically to journalistic rules except to point out that children, in general, are disruptive, and what we'll soon be dealing with in the Oval Office is a quintessential spoiled child, with many, perhaps most, of the personality characteristics that go with that unfortunate condition. One of the lessons parents have to learn, and sometimes it's a painful one for all concerned, is that no family can survive if the spoiled brat of the group gets everything s/he wants. I'd like to see the press approach Mr. Trump, if not exactly from that viewpoint, at least with that viewpoint in mind. If he won't speak to CNN, or allow a question in a marketing opportunity…er… excuse me… a press conference on a topic he doesn't want to talk about, or from that network, then some other network or reporter who might actually feel some responsibility to informing the public, is going to have to step into the breach and ask a question, or series of questions, that Mr. Trump may well find uncomfortable.

The presidency does not fit the economic paradigm of the corporate CEO, or at least it shouldn't. Those who voted for him didn't do so in order to help him grow his personal fortune. The job of President of the United States is supposed to be about public, as opposed to private, service. It's a concept that Mr. Trump apparently still fails to understand. I'd like to see the media help to educate him about the parameters of the job.

Let me get this straight

The 35 page document linked to as the Buzzfeed "extended version" is the material upon which the intelligence community briefed the "the President, the President-elect and Senate leaders"?

I am discomfited in this material's plainly "unverified nature". From what you show here, anyone might just have put this document "out there" in cyberspace. If what you say is true, I'm also discomfited by our intelligence community's credulity in accepting this document. But maybe there's a lot more to this than we know. It's time for them to disgorge what they know or don't know in the public interest.

So count me among those who would like a responsible press to question the sources of such documents. I presume a document like the "Buzzfeed" one is a forgery. How can anyone document such a document as authentic without a lot of other evidence, if at all? The press was frightened off from accepting suspicious documents after "Rathergate". They were right to do so. But it's a completely different story when someone is presenting unauthenticated documents as some sort of truth, especially about the world of spies- the "wilderness of mirrors"- few of us have experience or knowledge of. So I say it's time for the press to become much more assertive in its oversight and aggressive in challenging unverified sources and documents like this.

Four credible sources

From what we can gather, there were four credible sources for this particular opposition research, and Steele, the person who gathered the materials has been a successful and credible agent. so we can't say that it's anyone who put this "out there." Setting aside the potentially sexually compromising kompromisat videos, I am most concerned about the unspecified financial information that is mentioned in the report.

Leave it to Fox!

They along with the uber right with their fair and balanced strategy, have been very successful at uncovering all kinds of "credible" evidence against the Clinton's for 25 years and Obama for the last 8-10. NOT!

Investigative journalism ..,

must be turned up. And this incredibly deceptive definition of "objective journalism" that has been present has to change. There is a lot of reason to speak to truth. He who shall go unnamed can throw tantrums over every reasonable request or question but understand this will wear quickly on all of the public. The greatest risk of doing what the press should be doing in asking questions is that eventually he who shall not be named will not be liked by more and more of the public. He his dragging us all into his dangerous game. Buzzfeed and make of it what you will reported a piece of information. At the center of that information is what sort of relationship this man will have with another important political figure and maybe more importantly how that relationship will affect all of the public supporters or otherwise of he who shall go unnnamed. Get it all out there. Soon the name calling etc that he practices will be more evident to the many. Yes who is the press protecting ?

Oversight

One of the things being polarized means is that different groups of people want, sometimes passionately, different and even contradictory things. Lots of people do want things like transparency, accountability, and public oversight. The problem comes from the fact that it's pretty clear those people lost the last election. The election was won by people who find the argument "let's get past it" to be both clear and convincing.

Now I might come off as sounding a bit disparaging about those who just don't want to be bothered by a lot of information, who just want to turn things over to a sociopathic billionaire who they think can get a job done, and to some extent I am. But I also wonder if our desire for things like accountability and transparency translate into an inability to get things done. Are we so responsive the problems of the past that we have become insensitive to the needs of the present?

Getting things done

I don't think I've ever heard anyone argue that there was a trade-off between accountability and transparency and getting things done in government. Or even wonder if there was such a trade-off. But it's a good question, I think.

For those who are in government, not wanting to have to answer questions about anything that one does is probably the major reason or motivation for secrecy. If they could argue that it gets in the way of getting things done and they could make that stick, I think we'd hear it all the time. Reflecting on your question, it occurred to me that we actually do hear it all the time but just not in so many words. Many of the justifications for secrecy and against transparency and accountability are in the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act. There are quite a few, including of course, "national security" and its sibling "state secrets" which I've read Obama used even more than his predecessors.

What happens when things like "national security" and "state secrets" and the like are used to justify official secrecy are used to cover embarrassing or illegal conduct and they are contrary to the national interest? How are we supposed to know the difference between what "needs to be done" for us in the public interest and what "needs to be done" for the person holding power 's private interest or benefit? If you think of the questions that way, those who won were not against accountability and transparency. They only wanted and still want these principles applied to one candidate and one group of politicians. People who were screaming for Hillary to disclose all her e-mails and Obama's birth certificate are suddenly quiet when it comes to Trump's tax returns.

Sorry John:

Disagree, haven't been able to have a conversation with a Trumper in >2 months about transparency and accountability. All efforts result in the repeat of a a long list of proven false hoods about HRC. They can't and/or don't want to go there. i,e. no buyers remorse, they will ride their vote unquestioning no matter where it goes, sounds a little 1933-45 ish doesn't it?

I'm with Mr. Kingstad,

"Lots of people do want things like transparency, accountability, and public oversight. The problem comes from the fact that it's pretty clear those people lost the last election."

We have to remember that there was a more disliked and distrusted candidate that may American's on the left and right considered to be a poster child for elite obscurity and opaque government, and that was Hillary Clinton. Right or wrong fair or unfair everyone knew going into this that Clinton was the weakest candidate the democrats had as far as trust, popularity, and transparency was concerned yet they put her on the ticket anyways. So no, democrats cannot claim to have been the champions of transparency and accountability. In fact, on the contrary when we raised these obvious facts they made no end of excuses as to why none of this mattered and would not weaken their candidate. It was the democratic party not the voters who turned their backs on transparency and accountability.

As for the voters, it's clear that accountability and transparency were actually very big priorities. We can take issue with a voters judgement that Trump would more accountable and transparent but many of those who voted for him (and Bernie Sanders previously) did so with Trust and Transparency in mind. The fact that so many voters decided that Trump would deliver more accountability and transparency is just a reflection of the poor standing his opponent had on the issue, not proof that American's don't want accountability and transparency.

In the Age of Trump

I agree with Brian Lamberts statements regarding the reporting on Donald Trump's lack of openness with Congress and the American Public! The man needs to be forced into releasing his tax returns and the public needs to be informed as to his exact relationship with Russia and/or Putin!!

As President he owes it to the American Public to be as open and honest as possible. These are traits that Trump is lacking to the extreme.

I would like to thank Brian for writing about this problem and would hope that he continues to write about the subject until the Press "Gets It" and starts covering Trump honestly.

A formidable question

Brian writes there are at least four sources describing blackmail-quality material in Russian hands for possible use against Trump. The question is: "How do you 'blackmail' Donald Trump?"

Nothing is going to hurt him. He won. You lost. Accept it.

Please

This post isn't about winning and losing. Nor is it about accepting the election's outcome.

You talk as if, once the votes are counted, the winner gets to do whatever he/she wants. And our country doesn't -- or at least THEORETICALLY doesn't -- work that way. If you want Donald Trump to be a dictator, well, sorry. He will only be the President. (*fingers crossed*) This means that he will be, in fact, limited in what he can and cannot do. He can and will be held to account for his behavior and decisions, and that is the responsibility of the press, among other parts of our allegedly civilized society. There are actually some very good reasons for this. Civics 101.

To your question: How do you 'blackmail' Donald Trump?

The answer to that is simple, and it's just like anyone else. You simply ask him to do what you want, and then threaten to expose damaging things if he does not agree. There's nothing about Trump which makes him any less susceptible to such a strategy than any other human. In fact, he may have more to protect than most people, making it theoretically EASIER to blackmail him.

If someone has compromising information about him, and nobody knows for sure about that right now (though it's highly likely that at least SOMEONE out there has something damaging about him in their back pocket, 'Apprentice' outtakes perhaps?), he will have to do a simple calculation: Is doing what they ask better or worse than having the damaging info revealed?

We might hope that someone tasked with leading the country would ask that question in the context of what's best for the country. But most politicians (including Trump) will probably first consider how it will affect them directly, and, if history is any guide, probably make the decision based largely, if not solely, on that.

This makes the dynamics here pretty important. And knowing what dirt might be out there on an incoming President seems pretty reasonable, if you ask me. The side benefit is that, once we know all the dirt, he can't be blackmailed anymore.

So, if you want a REAL question to ponder, try this one:

Could a President do real harm to the country in the interest of keeping something damaging about himself secret?

Hope not. Guess so.

Please...

...you make it sound as if this report was produced by and for Buzzfeed or that Hillary commissioned it. Neither is the case. Christopher Steele, the man who produced it is a former MI6 agent (MI6 is British CIA) and is highly respected in the intelligence community. He was originally hired by Republicans opposing Trump, then after Trump won the nomination Democrats hired him, but it was after the election and due to his real concerns about Trump and his connections to Russia, and concerns of a coverup at the FBI (They already had the information for months but appeared to be doing nothing with it) that prompted him to turn the information to Senator John McCain who in turn gave it to Comey. McCain sent and emissary to London to hand receive a copy of it after verifying the credentials of the author with a highly respected former British Ambassador to Moscow.

Given the fact that the FBI had the information and sat on it, while at the same time, 11 days before the election, Comey sent the letter to Congress about Clinton's emails , it doesn't seem out of line for a news source to release it, verified or not. After all at the point the information was "out there."

Anyone who thinks this is new territory would have to have been under a rock during the run up to the Iraq war were Dick Cheney and company planted stories in the news, then used them as a reference to support for their arguments. Let's not get into how much unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo played during Clinton's impeachment and afterward the ongoing attacks on Hillary. No, this is not new territory, if its there is anything new about it its the fact that its being used against someone other than a Democrat.

Forcing Trump

It really is impossible to force Trump to do much of anything.

Lots of people argued that Trump should disclose things, but they lost the election. For better or worse, we have rejected accountability. We have, in effect, said "deliver results and we really don't want to know how you do it".

Putin seems to be

doing a good job of forcing Trump to do his bidding. The only thing Trump's campaign wanted changed in the Republican party’s election platform was to remove a pledge for military assistance to the Ukrainian government against separatist rebels in the east of the country.Most recently Trump announced he'd be amenable to removing Russian sanctions. Its seems all you need to do to force Trump to do something is video tape his hotel room.

I know your last sentence is principally for sardonic effect

But we shouldn't be distracted by the squirrel. Surely Trump isn't concerned about another instance of his odd orientation to sexual matters and bodily functions being disclosed. The more plausible hypothesis remains "follow the money" - Trump's debts to the Russian oligarchy, Putin's need to get a pipeline to India ahead of the Iranians in order to keep Russia afloat, the money to be made from Arctic oil, and all of the other elements of quid pro quo corruption at a grand scale. Trump's tax returns remain much more germane than salacious videos.

Reporting Trump

Seems to me the best approach is the straight arrow. Direct, clear question. Accurate word for word abswer. No interpretations. Don't dwell on non-answers - the public will spot them. Also, report which reporters were refused. We need an alternative to TV and Radio for replay of Qs & As. A special Facebook page. Also, get Twitter to open Trump's page where ordinary folks can ask Qs.

One hopes the press doesn't

One hopes the press doesn't get too far into looking neurotically into its own bellybutton on the Trump-and-Russia nexus. Our press is--belatedly, and thanks to BuzzFeed--getting into a matter that Brian reminds us was known all over Washington DC and New York for months--MONTHS--without a leak. The press were protecting their own ostensible integrity, while at the same time they printed and broadcast every little or big lie that Trump uttered in the campaign.

He who lives by the sword will die by the sword. I can't forget Trump's gigantic, democracy-destabilizing post-election statement that there were eleven million "illegal votes" in the election--he wanted to counter, somehow, the fact that Clinton got three million more votes nationally than he did, that she actually won. His insinuations about Hillary Clinton, his lies about her (and about his Republican rivals in the primary), his "many people have said..." or "I've heard that. . . ." rumor-mongering; that's Trump's sword. This private report contains the same kind of thing--unsubstantiated rumors--that Trump spreads. That's the sword that may turn against him.

What matters here is what Trump wants to bury: That his campaign was in rather tight communication with Russian authorities all through the election season, and that the Russians have been keeping track of Trump's Russian activities for years (it doesn't matter when they started keeping tabs on him; Trump had been making noises about a Presidential run before 2012, and he was a Big Business Fish--the Russians would have uncharacteristically careless not to begin a dossier on him in 2011 or earlier).

It's not the prostitutes we have to worry about. It's Trump's business ties and possible campaign contacts with Russia that we must ask the press to keep digging into. There seems to be some "there" there. At least according to the FBI.

Don't get all into some oguilt trip about what the press should do. The press knows what to do. They just have to resist Trump's manipulations, fight back against his will to suppress what the press knows.

Time to combine efforts

I'd love to see an emergency journalism summit at which organizations and individuals agree to work together. White House reporters will need to have each others' backs when they get singled out for attacks and threats. News organizations with shared goals might get farther by also sharing leads and combining investigative efforts. And there will be plenty to do. Already the Buzzfeed document dump is being credited with establishing that Trump and his empire have long and deep ties with Russia and that it is quite possible that he could be blackmailed for activities there.

A double standard...

...appears to be in play here. When Hillary Clinton's emails were being leaked by Wiki Leaks the cable shows first dutifully noted that they were unverified, then gleefully reported their contents as if they were indisputably legitimate. Are the media (with the exception of Buzzso cowed by he shall not be named that they won't do the same in this case? And, Brian, why did you, as a number of others who have written on this subject, not mention this fact? Go Buzzfeed! What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Oh, and don't hold your breath waiting for the media to grow a pair.
When Trump shouts down a reporter for a mainstream news organization, he's sending a clear message that the rest of the media hear loud and clear.

What's needed is...

PolitiFact as weekly reality TV for the masses:

1. Create an unassailable source for truth by offering millions of dollars in prizes if proved wrong.
2. Make the exposing of lies "Daily Show" hilarious: lie of the week, month and year.
4. Build a panel of truth: there must be 4 funny, smart, left & right retired federal judges somewhere.
5. Have a challenge round of lie defenders against the "panel of truth".
6. As lies go unchallenged have "PowerBall" like prize escalations: 911 NJ Muslim lie = $1 Billion
7. Conclude with the liar leader board: left/right/center collection of leading liars and their lie bounties

Until truth becomes cool and popular with the masses we are screwed. Reality TV made Trump and it is the best tool to undo him.

What has changed?

Politicians have always tried to manipulate the media. Trump is a) just better at it than the others b) has more tools (i.e. Twitter) to use, and c) doesn't feel the need to even pretend to be rational.

The media needs to report whats true, debunk the lies, and investigate malfeasance and misfeasance.

If we're truly in a "post truth" society then we're doomed and deserve to be.

Trump has figured out that he does not need the

press. He can go directly to the people with his message with today's technology. The media is not trusted by many regular folks, they have around a 15% trustworthy rating, so they are a perfect target for Trump. Why do an hour interview with the NY Times and spend the next 5 days trying to explain their bias in what was printed. The press gets very upset when Trump calls them "dishonest" every chance he gets. The press in turn goes after every little thing they can to disparage Trump and the press looks pety and small. This crazy circle repeats itself every day with those on the left saying "get him", those on the right saying "not fair" and the majority of regular folks saying "enough already".

Classic example of this craziness is Trump vs Lewis, Congressman Lewis called Trump non legitiment, in turn President Elect then called Lewis "all talk". The media is now in a state of shock that Trump called Lewis "all talk no action", not much mention of Lewis calling Trump non legitiment. It is not hard to see that the press agrees with Lewis and not with Trump. The truth is they both are wrong! As opposed to Obama who sent out 15 talking heads every Sunday morning for 8 years, to shred anyone who called him out, Trump fires from his hip all by himself... Both thin skinned approaches to folks who disagree with you!

It's Not About What Trump Needs

Yes, Trump can go directly to the public. He can rant and rave about the "dishonest" media, and the more gullible among us can swallow that narrative whole, but that is not how he is going to be held accountable (contrary to what he may want us to think, Trump is supposed to be serving us).

"The media is now in a state of shock that Trump called Lewis "all talk no action", not much mention of Lewis calling Trump non legitiment." How about the shock that Trump would lash back in such a spiteful way? How about how Rep. Lewis's "all talk" included being beaten bloody while marching for civil rights while a certain scion of a wealthy developer was busy getting draft deferments and playing squash? How about the fact that a President with Trump's record on racism should tread lightly when talking about what anyone else has done for civil rights?

It's about the media needs to get a grip with reality

We have a combative president that echoes what millions of people think of the establishment in the press and in government. What no one is saying is that Trump will go after anyone that stands up to him, no matter what they are. If you decide to attack him, you better have so good solid facts and have a clean house.

The response to Lewis is classic Trump. Lewis made it personal and was without merit. Hey, if you say something like that, expect a response. Trump went over the top, but both men were wrong. Lewis didn't need to start this in the first place.

Then there is the media. They are almost all card carrying Dems with most wanting Hilary to win. The American people are tired of the constant press pandering to the Dems..let's start with Donna Brazile. And with what happened to Bernie, the lack of coverage on Benghazi and the connection to the Clintons using their foundation and Sec of State to make them filthy rich beyond anyone's comprehension, you are going to have a lot of distrust. But the usual press keeps playing along the same way. And, like those that still refuse to believe they had a bad candidate in Hilary and it's everyone else's fault, idiots in middle America, the Russians, etc. when instead they need to look at what America really wants instead of being piously lectured to ad nauseum.

Three Points

First, remember that the President of the United States is supposed to be a public servant, not an opponent in a cage fight. He is not supposed to be attacking, he is supposed to be working for the protection and betterment of the entire nation. No one needs to have "good solid facts" or a "clean house" to criticize him and hold him to task. Trump is the one who should have sold facts before going forward (the "clean house?" Sorry, that ship sailed a long time ago).

Second, anyone who wants to be President should expect to be held accountable for their actions. Accountability is a civic virtue. It is not a personal attack and should not be responded to as if it were one. Saying that Trump "went over the top" in his response to Rep. Lewis is another way of saying that he does not have the temperament to be President (since we're dredging up recent history, let's remember how many times President Obama went "over the top" at the relentless, malicious, and false attacks on him and his family). If this is how he handles an "attack" that was personal and without merit from one member of the House of Representatives, I recommend Mr. Pence brush up on the mechanics of the 25th Amendment. Pay especial attention to Section 4.

Third, any reasonable argument you may have gets sunk by your reference to the Clinton non-scandals.

For those people who have a

For those people who have a hard time NOT believing what they hear and see Trump say, and then have him deny saying it, there's always KellyAnne Conway or another Trump surrogate--on the Sunday morning talk shows or Fox News or CNN--to explain how he didn't mean to say what we all saw and heard him say.

He's not out there "alone." There wouldn't be all kinds of helpers around him, who with straight faces actually ask us to forget or forgive Trump's actual behavior and his actual words. Please. We weren't born yesterday, and Trump lies on a regular basis.

Lots of Trump voters are now hard at work trying to justify his every statement and action, despite the awfulness of what they see and hear him say or Tweet, because they knew how bad he was but still voted for him. They're desperate to justify their own mistaken action, now that they see that the man has no concept of ethics, no moral sense, no memory, and no grasp at all of what he's gotten into.

The media deserves the lack of trust

If I wanted to know what Donald Trump is tweeting about I could just follow him on Twitter. I don't care about his personal beefs with other celebrities and politicians. I care about policy. The TV news media doesn't want to discuss policy - it doesn't sell ads. They are very happy being the national gossip columnist and cashing checks from corporate sponsors. Therefore I can completely ignore television as a news source. They are irrelevant because they WANT to be irrelevant.

Therein Lies the Problem

"I don't care about his personal beefs with other celebrities and politicians." That's the real problem. If you take away the personal beefs, the complaints, the rants, the tantrums, what's left? Policy? Sorry, not from this PEOTUS. He is all about personality and branding. Policy is not of interest to him.

To modify a cliche that I hate, what he tweets is what you get.

Unwitting accomplice's?

The problem is the dominant journalistic model, not the conscious awareness of journalism i.e. their "witting" or lack thereof.

The dominant model of journalism that has emerged over the last 4 decades is one of elite and scandal dependence, they depend on the elite and access to the elite for story material and verification and they chase scandals rather than track down stories. It's a bad model because he elite frequently aren't interested in providing reliable information especially from a critical perspective, and the scandals are frequently artificial.

This is actually an opportunity for the media to break their dependence on the elite and reestablish their credibility as independent observers and reporters. To the extent that this would be unfamiliar territory for some journalists it's just a reflection of their current dependence. Many other journalist have been working independently for years and decades all along and can easily mentor those making the transition.

The most important articles being written right now are those that ignore Trumps tweets and focus on backgrounding his appointments and the republican attempts to push them through confirmation process without proper vetting. Other important stories are those that investigate and explore his policy proposals and those being proposed by the republican congress. The BBC for instance has an excellent article this morning about emerging conflicts between Trump and his own party for instance.

This Russian stuff frankly is irrelevant at this point. Whatever role Kompromat may play in the future pales in comparison to what Trump's transition team is doing right now today. Furthermore, I seriously doubt this is first time someone has had compromising material about Trump that they could threaten to expose, and such exposures don't seem phase Trump or his base of supporters anyways. Making good on a blackmail threat is always a risky gambit for the blackmailer because they essentially surrender their leverage, and with a wild card like Trump the outcome is not predictable. So whatever.

Why talk about the media when we could talk about Trump's transition? There are two nice videos out there, one with Al Franken, and the other with Elizabeth Warren questioning Betsy DaVos about her credentials to run the Education Dept. Check those out.